The amazing stories about failed solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and the loan program through which the Obama administration granted the company a $535 million loan guarantee with taxpayer money continue unabated this week.
The Washington Post reported last night, “The U.S. Department of Energy learned in December that Solyndra was violating its federal loan deal, but the agency changed the loan terms to allow the solar company to continue receiving taxpayer funds, federal officials confirmed Wednesday. Executives at Solyndra, which had been awarded a $535 million government-backed loan to spur its solar-panel production, confided to the Energy Department late last fall that the Fremont, Calif., company was running out of money and at risk of liquidating. The company was unable on Dec. 1 to make its first $5 million payment into a special reserve fund, which was required under the loan terms and designed to help protect taxpayers.
“Congressional investigators have questioned why the Obama administration agreed to help the company in late 2010 when it was warned that the firm was at risk of collapse. Internal e-mails show federal reviewers initially estimated they could save the taxpayers as much as $168 million by letting the company go under in December 2010, rather than resuscitating it and allowing it to draw down more federal money. Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera confirmed Wednesday that the agency knew Solyndra had violated the loan terms but agreed to change the requirement to help Solyndra.”
And Bloomberg News wrote yesterday, “The glass-and-metal building that Solyndra LLC began erecting alongside Interstate 880 in Fremont, California, in September 2009 was something the Silicon Valley area hadn’t seen in years: a new factory. It wasn’t just any factory. When it was completed at an estimated cost of $733 million, including proceeds from a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee, it covered 300,000 square feet, the equivalent of five football fields. It had robots that whistled Disney tunes, spa-like showers with liquid-crystal displays of the water temperature, and glass-walled conference rooms.
“‘The new building is like the Taj Mahal,’” John Pierce, 54, a San Jose resident who worked as a facilities manager at Solyndra, said in an interview. The building, designed to make far more solar panels than Solyndra got orders for, is now shuttered, and U.S. taxpayers may be stuck with it. . . . Amid the still-unfolding postmortems, the factory stands as emblematic of money misspent and the Field of Dreams ethos that seemed to drive the venture, said Ramesh Misra, a solar-industry analyst in Los Angeles for Brigantine Advisors.”
And yet, the loan program that gave money to Solyndra is still pumping taxpayer dollars into “green energy” projects, as The Wall Street Journal editors discuss today: “If you thought the $535 million Solyndra scandal had chastened the fearless venture capitalists of the Obama Administration, think again. The Department of Energy shoveled out $1.1 billion in new loan guarantees to solar projects in Nevada and Arizona Wednesday, and more deals are pending before the $18 billion program funded by the 2009 stimulus expires Friday. We’ll go out on a limb and say the rush raises questions about how carefully these outlays are being vetted, especially in light of solar-panel-maker Solyndra’s August bankruptcy. The FBI, Treasury Department and Congress are all investigating who approved the politically connected California company’s loan guarantee and why. The case is an embarrassment for the White House, which touted Solyndra as a model for its green jobs agenda. Yet the Department of Energy seems oddly removed from the uproar. In a statement yesterday, Secretary Steven Chu said: ‘If we want to be a player in the global clean energy race, we must continue to invest in innovative technologies that enable commercial-scale deployment of clean, renewable power like solar.’ Translation: China is throwing taxpayer money into solar, so Americans should, too. . . . It’s always possible that some of the Energy Department’s latest investments will turn out to be winners, but if they do then the profits will go to the private shareholders. If they fail like Solyndra, then taxpayers will get stuck with the bill.”